The anti-money laundering bill (Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2013 No. 12 of 2013) now before the National Assembly should have been tabled several years ago. Both this and the previous Governments were negligent in failing to do so in a timely manner. The Opposition has pointedly criticized this unwarranted delay. It is now time to move on.
The Opposition has a responsibility to ensure that the bill is passed with whatever amendments it negotiates with the Government or otherwise deems appropriate. It has the votes to amend any clause during consideration of the bill in the House.
Quite apart from the serious possibility of delay harming the business sector, thousands of Guyanese who rely on remittances can potentially be seriously deprived. Why would the Opposition, which has a responsibility not to do or omit to do anything to harm the national interest or the Guyanese people or a section of it, want to jeopardize its credibility by delaying passage of the bill, when it has had more than sufficient time to consider any amendments? The only possible conclusion is that it is blinkered by a one dimensional vision of its role to obstruct of the Government at all costs and whatever the consequences.
Guyana cannot progress with a minority Government operating with a majority mindset, nor with an Opposition which sees its function as only to ‘oppose,’ and ‘expose, if not to ‘depose’ in the famous, or infamous, words of Peter D’Aguiar, the late founder and leader of the United Force, about how he saw his role in relation to the PPP Government of 1961-4.
It could be that a more considered strategy by APNU is at play, namely, the assertion of complete Opposition authority over the executive, powered by its legislative majority or even, more modestly, pressuring what it sees as a recalcitrant executive into a more open, accommodating and consultative relationship. One of these limited and limiting objectives might possibly be the case, to the exclusion of any overarching considerations.
On August 17, 2002, Desmond Hoyte said at a PNCR press conference: “An adjusted system of governance for our country – whether we call it ‘power sharing,’ ‘shared governance,’ ‘inclusive governance’ or any other name – appears to be an idea whose time has come.” Some months later, on February 8, 2003, in a paper entitled “Towards Greater Inclusive Governance in Guyana,” President Jagdeo announced that “further arrangements for inclusive governance can result after consultation with our constituents and the electorate.”
No political initiatives resulted from these statements despite the enabling environment created by the post Herdmanston constitutional reforms of 2001-2 and the new parliamentary regime, armed with significant reforms. However, the 2011 election results have caused many to believe that the opportunity has arrived to satisfy the historic national urge for a re-creation of something akin to the broad based ethnic and class collaboration achieved by the 1950 PPP. Efforts in the early 1960s, the second half of the 1970s, the mid 1980s did not succeed.
APNU could not have failed to notice that the electorate, particularly that section that traditionally voted for the PPP, sent a loud and ringing message that while it wanted its Party, the PPP, to remain in office, it wanted it to initiate a form of structural collaboration with the Opposition, which has not happened. In fact, the PPP has grown defiant and has shattered Cheddi Jagan’s lifelong dream of national unity by turning its back on shared governance when the real possibility now presents itself for the first time since the idea of a coalition first emerged in the early 1960s.
All through this APNU has been silent. It has not dusted off the PNCR’s proposals for shared governance, has proposed no constitutional amendments to facilitate it, has not placed the issue on the agenda at all much less at the top. All that is seen is the same opposition to everything, in the same terms that has occurred in the past, with perhaps a bit more success. There has been no practical acknowledgement of the real significance of the 2011 results except the exercise of the blunt instrument of majority legislative power based on its only expressed assessment of 2011 – ‘we are the majority.’
The current strategy of APNU does not reflect the political transformation that the PNCR embraced under Desmond Hoyte of an open press, free and fair elections and shared governance, despite its controversial history. It seems that even though both the PNCR and the PPP have proved that they are capable of transformative initiatives, when presented with the real possibility, they retreat to a past trapped in intense hostility. The only conceivable explanation is that it is the unconscious political expression of a history of ethnic hurts or presumed ethnic hurts.
The electorate has simplified the issue by charging our political leaders to place a shared political space at the top of the agenda without having to acknowledge the deeply embedded complications of ethnicity which our political leaders will not do. The electorate may well exact consequences if this does not happen.